Aug
26

The bunt that drove us all crazy

By

If you want to read our indictment of Joba Chamberlain‘s poor outing last night, head on down to Joe’s recap. I’m not here to talk about Ol’ Two-Out Run Joba. I want to talk about bunting and why it’s generally a very bad idea.

Baseball is a game played without a clock. Instead of 48 or 60 minutes, baseball teams get precious outs. Each side has 27 of them, and at the end of those 27 outs, whichever team has more runs wins. Just as teams don’t like to give up minutes in football, why should managers leading a team on offense ever opt to give up outs? Some will say it improves their chances of winning, but in reality it doesn’t.

In fact, it has been proven that at no point in the game does giving up an out in exchange for a base lead to a better chance at scoring runs — and runs, after all, represent the ultimate goal of a baseball game. Before we arrive at Nick Swisher, Joe Girardi and the bunt that made me want to punch a wall, take a look at Baseball Prospectus’ run matrix. This chart details how many runs a team at bat scores in any given situation. For example, with runners on 1st and 2nd with no one out, a team is expected to score 1.50766. With one out and runners on 2nd and 3rd, a team is expected to score 1.43489 runs.

There are two key points here. First, with that extra out and extra base, a team’s total runs scored decreases by around 0.07 runs. Is that by itself worth eschewing the bunt? Probably not. After all, a team with runners on 2nd and 3rd and 1 out still scores, on average, more than 1 run in that situation. There is, however, a need to consider who is batting.

And now, we return to the Yankees. According to Jack Curry, Joe Girardi, with two on and no one out, asked Nick Swisher to bunt. Now, Nick Swisher is a power hitter. On the season, he has a 123 OPS+ and has hit 123 career home runs. He also gets on base 37 percent of the time — and, by the way, a team with bases loaded and no one out scores, on average, over two runs in that situation.

So Girardi asks Nick Swisher to bunt. Coming into tonight’s game, Nick Swisher had 7 career bunts in 2978 career plate appearances. Three of those bunts came this year. Not so surprisingly, Nick Swisher popped out, and the runners did not advance.

In the end, last night’s game really annoyed me. Joba was really bad, and the Yanks couldn’t protect an early 4-0 lead. They nearly mounted a comeback, but Joe Girardi stupidly managed it away. They still have a six-game lead, but Girardi has been a slave to bad strategy all year. Had the slumping Melky been up with Jeter behind him, I could see why the team might want to bunt, but Nick Swisher is a hitter. He should never ever be bunting after the Yanks got six batters on and the tying run is already in scoring position with no one out. It just doesn’t make sense.

Categories : Rants

201 Comments»

  1. In fact, it has been proven that at no point in the game does giving up an out in exchange for a base lead to a better chance at scoring runs…

    I have nothing to add, I just wanted to say that louder so that everyone heard it.

    • Johan Iz My Brohan says:

      Especially when you sacrifice an out to move the runner over, yet you have Cano next to bat. 0.0001 chance that those runners will score.

    • AndrewYF says:

      However, it can lead to a better chance of scoring A run. That’s an important fact.

      • No, it can’t. That’s the point that was being made.

        A successful bunt would have still decreased our chances of scoring even one single run.

        • AndrewYF says:

          Can you lead me to the page that has expectancy for number of runs?

          • It’s linked in the post, but here’s BP’s version of the run matrix.

            • AndrewYF says:

              I think I mean expectancy for specifically 1 run, 2 runs, 3 runs, etc.

            • Chris says:

              All that table shows is that you will likely score more runs with 1st and 2nd no one out than 2nd and third one out. The key in this situation is that moving the runners to 2nd and 3rd gives you a better chance at scoring 1 run, and possibly a better chance at scoring 2 runs. Any additional runs that could theoretically score in that situation are meaningless because the game would already be over.

              • joe says:

                Um, how exactly does it give you a “better chance” when, after a successful bunt, you will only have two chances to hit (2 outs left) instead of three chances, because you gave away one of those chances by bunting.

                Or, to make it clearer, why would you erase Swisher’s chance at driving in a run or taking a walk there? Wouldn’t either of those things have been preferable to making an intentional out? Especially against a pitcher who was clearly having tremendous difficulty getting even one out on his own.

                • RIYank says:

                  Come on, guys, this is obvious. The way it gives you a greater chance to score one run is REALLY obvious: the run can score on an out. The way it gives you a greater chance to score two runs is almost as obvious: the two runs can score on a single.

                  Ben is wrong. The chance of scoring one run in that situation goes *up* with a successful bunt. The chance of scoring two runs also goes up.
                  The problem, of course, is that the bunt wasn’t successful.

            • mike says:

              This chart doesn’t answer AndrewYF’s question. That the average number of runs goes down does not imply that the chance of at least 1 run goes down.

              • Actually, bunting increases the probability of scoring just one run in that situation. See the middle of this lengthy post. At least from 1977-1992, the probability of scoring 1 run with runners on 1st and 2nd with no outs was .637. With one out and runners on 2nd and 3rd, the probability of scoring just one run is .689.

                Does that justify bunting with Swisher with no outs in the 9th and Melky Cabrera up next? I don’t think so, but it offers up a least a little bit of an excuse for Girardi and one I overlooked in the original post.

                • mike says:

                  Thanks. That’s helpful. And I think you’re right in any case. The problem with stats is that they only imply so much about particular situations with particular players, and Swisher is just not the guy to be bunting there.

                • Chris says:

                  I assume there’s not one handy, but is there a table that shows the probability of scoring 1 or 2 runs in that situation? The advantage of a bunt is not simply moving the tying run to 3rd, but it would also move the winning run to second.

    • the artist formerly known as (sic) says:

      and i would just like to +1 this for emphasis.

    • mike says:

      “In fact, it has been proven that at no point in the game does giving up an out in exchange for a base lead to a better chance at scoring runs…”

      This may well be true, but as AndrewYF notes, the numbers provided don’t actually show this. I’m no big advocate of bunting to move the runners. But the fact that the average number of runs goes down with a bunt doesn’t imply that the likelihood of scoring runs (as in, at least one run) goes down as well.

      And in fairness to managers, I think most of them think of the bunt in just this way. It makes it less likely you will score a lot of runs but more likely that you will score at least one run. I have no idea whether that statement is true, but in any case, it seems like this is the trade-off they take themselves to be making.

      • AndrewYF says:

        I think Ben notes this here:

        “There are two key points here. First, with that extra out and extra base, a team’s total runs scored decreases by around 0.07 runs. Is that by itself worth eschewing the bunt? Probably not.”

        But I would like to see a table showing the chance for just one run. Which is important if that is either the tying or go-ahead run.

      • This may well be true, but as AndrewYF notes, the numbers provided don’t actually show this.

        Yes, they do.

        Quoting Ben:

        For example, with runners on 1st and 2nd with no one out, a team is expected to score 1.50766. With one out and runners on 2nd and 3rd, a team is expected to score 1.43489 runs.

        A successful sacrifice bunt does not improve our probabilistic chances of scoring a run. It lowers it.

        Frank Francisco faced six batters. The first four batters he faced resulted in four runs and no outs. Then we tried to sac bunt and gave him a lifeline.

        • AndrewYF says:

          No, it decreases the chance of scoring MULTIPLE runs. But it says nothing about the chances of scoring a SINGLE run. That is what we’d all like to see, and it’s likely that 2nd and 3rd with one out is more likely to score a run than 1st and 2nd with no outs.

        • mike says:

          Just to be clear, I’m not arguing that Swisher should have bunted or even that it ever makes sense to bunt. All I’m saying is that a chart that shows the expected number of runs scored in each situation does not provide the answer to the question of which strategy is most likely to produce at least one run.

          It’s certainly plausible to me that bunting does not increase that likelihood, but this chart really just does not show that.

  2. I love me some run expectancy charts.

    The following, however, is a weak defense of Girardi. Using Walk Off Balk’s Win Expectancy Finder, I found that a successful bunt would’ve increased the Yankees’ chances of winning from about 51% (1st/2nd, 0 outs, down 1) to about 55% (2nd/3rd, 1 out, down 1). The problem is that the WinEx Finder used essentially exists in a vacuum, using only the base/out/inning/score differential. It doesn’t take into account many mitigating factors such as: the batter with seven sac bunts in his career who’s an on base machine and can hit for power or the fact that four runs had been scored without an out being recorded. Bunting was, as it usually is, a bad idea there.

    • AndrewYF says:

      Would you have supported a bunt with Jeter? Even though he’s been insanely hot, I think I still would have supported it, because he is one of the most prolific groundball hitters in baseball history. Runners on 2nd and 3rd with one out is much better than a runner on 3rd with two outs in a one-run game at home.

    • Oh and it doesn’t take into account the fact that the batter who was following Swisher has been trash for his last 30 games.

    • You know what increases WinEx even more? A hit that ties the game and doesn’t cost an out. An RBI single takes WinE from 51% to 79.5%, and you can’t do that if you’re giving away outs.

      • the artist formerly known as (sic) says:

        Someone has not cooled off from last night…

        • To be fair to myself, I wrote this post last night, but the bunt still is a bad, bad decision. I hate watching the team give away games.

          • the artist formerly known as (sic) says:

            Yep. And somehow its made infinitely more frustrating that they almost came back, and then lost. I would have preferred, I think, that they had gone 1-2-3 in the ninth rather than lose that way.

        • CountryClub says:

          I feel Ben’s pain here. I woke up this morning just as steamed as I was last night. Swish stinks at bunting and right now Melky stinks at hitting. It made no sense to do what they did last night. I just wish they went 1-2-3 in the 9th. I would have gotten a much better night’s sleep.

          • I hate to dwell on Melky more than I already to, but since May 9, the guy’s hitting .248/.304/.387. I’m not sure how many more chances the Yanks should give him once Gardner returns, and I really hope that finding a center fielder is on their to-do list for this off-season.

            • the artist formerly known as (sic) says:

              Yeah, and his tripleslash in August is…

              brace yourselves!

              .198/.239/.326

              • Klemy says:

                Ugh. That’s an ugly damned line. He has truly been terrible lately. I think I can honestly say I’m done with any hope for him offensively.

            • Mike Cameron on a one year deal.

              • Briefly discussed this with TSJC yesterday, just going to quote from my comment yesterday:

                “At this point in his career, you’d be signing a guy who hits kinda like Nick Swisher (who is good), with more strikeouts and less power and walks (so, not really in Swish’s offensive league), little speed (his SB numbers are way down and have been declining for years), at age 37 (2010 season), coming out of the NL Central.
                I’m more than a little concerned that his numbers, at age 37, wouldn’t hold up if he moved to the AL East. I think the time when Mike Cameron would have been valuable to the Yankees has passed.”

                How much money are you willing to allocate to a guy like that? Is that money that could be used on Matsui/Damon? If you can sign Matsui/Damon (or even just Damon) can’t you get by with Gelky (or some other surprise help from the minors) and use the money it would take to sign Cameron, to sign another piece?

                To me, this is kind of like the Adam Dunn discussion we had recently. A lot of us have been pro Mike Cameron for a long time, but looking forward, considering the age/skills of the player and the player personnel needs of the Yankees, I think the time when Mike Cameron would have been a valuable acquisition for the Yankees has passed. Things change.

            • Charlie says:

              how about ajax?

            • AndrewYF says:

              I don’t think it is a priority, and I don’t know if it should be. Yankee CFers this year have put up an wOBA of .331, which is bad, but it’s 7th in the league, and it doesn’t consider defense, which is a big positive for Gardner. There aren’t a lot of obvious solutions out there, and the Yankees have at least some young options with upside. I’m thinking the corners and the back end of the rotation will (rightly) get more attention than CF.

            • Andy In Sunny Daytona says:

              I could have sworn it was you Ben who said just yesterday, that your numbers are your numbers. But I guess it that only matters with players you like. :)

      • Word. I agree with you; the bunt is an awful, awful call.

        • Especially considering the batter/pitcher combination.

          Forget the fact that Swish doesn’t bunt with great alacrity for a second. Frank Francisco threw 23 pitches last night. 10 of them were balls.

          Think about that for a second. Nick Swisher collects walks like they’re going out of style. Frank Frank is rattled, because he’s just turned a 10-5 lead into a 10-9 lead with two men on and none out. The first two pitches he threw that Swish squared to bunt on were both out of the zone.

          What were the odds that Swish works a bases-loading walk there, like 85%?

          • Well, it’s Nick Swisher. So the odds are more at something around…154%.

            • Exceedingly likely alternate universe game scenario #1:

              1) Swish walks the bases loaded.
              2) An ice-cold Melky still lines into a DP at second, but the tying run scores.
              3) A red hot Derek Jeter rips a game-winning single.

              Exceedingly likely alternate universe game scenario #2:
              1) Swish walks the bases loaded.
              2) An ice-cold Melky swings for the fences and hits a flyout, scoring the tying run on an unintentional sac fly.
              3) A red hot Derek Jeter rips a game-winning single.

              Exceedingly likely alternate universe game scenario #3:
              1) Swish walks the bases loaded.
              2) Joe Girardi has Melky suicide squeeze, but he can’t execute the bunt just like Swisher and pops out. They double off the runner at home.
              3) A red hot Derek Jeter still rips a game-tying single.
              4) A red hot Johnny Damon deposits one in the RF seats for the win.

              Exceedingly likely alternate universe game scenario #4:
              1) Swish walks the bases loaded.
              2) Melky pops up on the first pitch. All runners remain at their bases.
              3) Jeter and Damon have two chances to knock in the tying and winning runs.

              Exceedingly likely alternate universe game scenario #5:
              1) Swish walks the bases loaded.
              2) Girardi lifts Melky for Eric Hinske. Hinske rips a game winning single down the line.

              I got pages of these, I could go on.

              • Charlie says:

                how the hell would the tying run score in scenario # 1 from melky lining into a DP? Did the runner tag up on an infield line out? I get you point, though. I’m just wondering

              • Chris says:

                Exceedingly likely alternate universe game scenario #6:

                1) Swisher successfully executes a simple sacrifice bunt as he was undoubtedly taught in little league.

                2) Melky hits the same line drive up the middle which is now a game winning single because the SS is not playing up the middle for the DP.

                • Pasqua says:

                  Please stop with the “you learned it in Little League” argument. He has bunted seven in his CAREER. Because he learned to run the hand up when he was 12 years old does not mean he still can. Do you remember trigonometry? How about physics?

                • Pasqua says:

                  And yes, I know trig and physics are more involved than bunting, but my point is that you don’t remember everything you learn, nor does learning something make you good at it.

                • Do you remember trigonometry? How about physics?

                  The last mathematics class of any sort I took in school was Calculus in my senior year of high school in 1995.

                  I know of the existence of derivatives, but couldn’t describe what a derivative is to you if you paid me.

              • Short Porch says:

                Swisher walks

                Melky taps a bleeder to the right side of the mound, gets tagged out, tying run scores (seriously, how does he do that over and over?)

                Jeter drops an inside-out flair to right. Game over.

                To be fair, Melky RIPPED that line drive. I thought that was in CF. Unfortunately, so did Hairston.

          • Tanks says:

            Swish bunted on ball two (high fastball).

            Assume Pudge called the pitch because it is the most tempting/difficult to execute a bunt on.

            Funny how Rangers traded for Pudge to backup Teagarden and they have so soon flipped roles.

          • Jeffrey says:

            The bunt was a horrible call. Swisher has the highest walk rate along with A-rod on the team, around 16% of his PA result in a walk. If Swisher did get a hit the Yankees most likely would have won the game. He is a pure power hitter, while he only makes contact 25% of the time 50% of his hits go for extra bases and that’s the highest on the team.

        • Klemy says:

          In total agreement. Bunting in the situation we had last night is just maddening. It’s just so frustrating to sit there and have this idea in your head about all that’s going to go wrong with it and then have it happen.

          I don’t like the bunt decision at all. I don’t like it even more, knowing it’s Swisher doing it.

  3. PA YANKEE says:

    Couldn’t agree more, one of the dumbest calls by Girardi this year and there have been many. Swisher is primarily a fly ball hitter and a fly ball still moves runner to 3rd same as a bunt. Of course all this would be moot if the big dissappointment Joba had done his job. Once again no one in this organization can figure out what’s going on with Joba–he has been told many times to be agressive only to continue to nibble and pitch like he is afraid to be there. Could be an iffy post season with only 2 or 3 starters you can rely on.

  4. Makavelli says:

    Yeah. It was the bunt that drove everybody crazy.

    Joba’s 10.35 ERA in his last 4 starts is something to be proud of. His numbers are exponentially getting worse too.

    3 starts ago he gave up 5 hits and walked 2. 2 starts ago he gave up 7 hits and walked 3. Last night he gave up 9 hits and walked 3.

    But let’s not harp on something so obvious. Let’s go after the one small (compared to the Joba issue) bad move that also happened.

    I’m sure they won’t botch a bunt with Swisher up in a situation like that again. No point to even talk about it. It was bad and it’s over and hopefully he learned his lesson.

    The major issue is Joba. He’s absolutely terrible lately and we have no back up plan.

    • the artist formerly known as (sic) says:

      Hey there guy.

      I’d like to direct you to the start of this article.

      “If you want to read our indictment of Joba Chamberlain’s poor outing last night, head on down to Joe’s recap. I’m not here to talk about Ol’ Two-Out Run Joba. I want to talk about bunting and why it’s generally a very bad decision.”

      Read through it a few times and then reconsider your position, sir.

    • Let me reproduce the first paragraph of my post for you:

      If you want to read our indictment of Joba Chamberlain’s poor outing last night, head on down to Joe’s recap. I’m not here to talk about Ol’ Two-Out Run Joba. I want to talk about bunting and why it’s generally a very bad decision.

      No one is excusing Joba, but we already wrote about it. Don’t be so obnoxious about it in the next post after the Joba one.

    • Danny says:

      no one is dismissing joba’s piss poor performance, but the “bunt” was one of the last things people saw and remember and harp on right now.

    • Well, considering how this is a post about bunting, I don’t expect to see much discussion on Chamberlain.

  5. Charlie says:

    agreed, i really don’t trust girardi, and i probably never will unless we win it all. he makes too many dumb decisions

    • Klemy says:

      But in truth most managers make these dumb decisions as well, because they want to go by this damned imaginary book. I’m not saying it in defense of the decision, just as a point that most managers make dumb calls like this.

  6. Bill says:

    Swisher needs to get the bunt down in that situation.No excuses.

  7. viridiana says:

    “In fact, it has proven that at no point in the game does giving up an out in exchange for a base lead to a better chance at scoring runs — and runs, after all, represent the ultimate goal of a baseball game.”

    Yes, this is the standard argument against bunting. And I believe it rests on fallacious logic. More runs may be scored with runners on first and second and no outs than with second and third and one out — but that’s because there are more big innings. When there is an absolute need for a single run (and, increasing the favorable odds, when the batter is capable of bunting) there is a far better chance of delivering that run with bunting. The point missed by all the stat-heads is that the cumulative data does not account for specific situations where one run is needed. And it does not distinguish between situations with competent and non-competent bunters. COmpetent bunters, for example, could actually get a base hit or induce a fielding error. More games are lost with double plays hot with men on first and second than with errant bunts. That said, if Swisher can’t bunt, he shouldn’t be bunting in a situation of that sort.

    • SM says:

      This is a very fair point if taken in isolation. It even makes more sense when you realize that Melky has a high GB rate so you would want the double play off. But Melky is not a great flyball hitter or a great on base guy. Swisher is very good at both of those, plus has power.

  8. zs190 says:

    I realize that with runners on first and second with no out, you are likely to score more runs than second and third with one out. However, is second and third with one out more likely to lead to at least one run over first and second with no out?

    I say this because I was reading a somewhat older article where they stated that first and second with no out is the only situation where a bunt improves the chance to score (assuming you are trying to get one run and the guy can successfully lay it down)

    I’m not disputing that Swisher is not the right guy to do it, but if there was ever a bunt situation, that was it.

    • I’d be more inclined to say the bunt was right if the winning run wasn’t already on base. If it was just Hairston on second with no outs, then, yeah, maybe you play for one run and win it in extras. However, with the winning run on base, you’ve gotta swing away.

    • I will give you this: I would have been much, much less pissed about the bunt call if it were Melky bunting rather than Swisher, even though Swisher is a better bunter than Melky, who sucks balls.

      The only time the bunt should EVER enter a manager’s cranium is when the batter in question is crappy or slumping mightily.

      Nick Swisher is good at not making outs. That skill should be utilized at helping us win that ballgame by not having him intentionally make an out.

      Melky Cabrera? Meh, whatevs.

      If Girardi lets Swish walk the bases loaded and then lifts Melky for a pinch-suicide-squeeze-bunter, I’d even be okay with that.

  9. josh strong says:

    The “bunt” did not drive me crazy. What does drive me crazy is a fan base that’s too smart for it’s own good and certainly lacks perspective. Everybody has to be smarter than Joe Girardi because they have a handy dandy chart to extrapolate from. (as if Girardi (and his coaches) don’t have the same fucking chart and decades of experience that has him now managing the best team in baseball)

    And if you’re honest you do have to admit the chart does have flaws. One is that statistical significance is attached to .07%. Another is that it doesn’t take into consideration the count at all. But the major one is obviously that it allows in no way for consideration of the situation. A first inning episode is treated exactly the same as part of a ninth inning rally of 4 runs that’s put the opposing closer on the ropes in a situation where he’s about to blow his second big lead to a contending team in as many weeks.

    Look at it this way– if Swisher bunts successfully before his first strike then the pressure on the pitcher increases in a situation where he’s already losing it. If he makes an out that doesn’t advance the runner before the first strike that pressure decreases. Even if the odds are statistically even. Why not try and increase the pressure on the pitcher for one strike? Oh, yeah. Because maybe he might pop up. Wonder what the odds of that were? It can’t just be shit luck. It has to be because Girardi didn’t follow the chart. We’d win 162 games if Girardi would just follow the chart!

    And the saddest thing is I’m pretty sure if he had grounded that second pitch into a double play I’m sure the title of this post would be The Non Bunt That Drove Me Crazy.

    • I promise you I will never complain about a time when a player does not bunt. That’s how much I despise bunting. Giving up outs is simply a bad strategy made worse by the fact that, when Swisher attempted to bunt, the Yanks had just 3 outs left in the game.

    • cr1 says:

      Girardi does not have decades of experience as a manager — he has two and a half seasons.

      Just like a player with only two and a half seasons at his position, he has a lot to learn about his current role, and his upside is as important as what he’s capable of doing at the moment.

      He’s a smart, ambitious, hardworking but inexperienced manager and I think the first three qualities named in this sentence will help him greatly as he moves on from the fourth one.

      In other words, if he’s still around in five years we should be seeing one of the best.

    • Todd says:

      Thank you Josh. I thought I was the only one. In fact, when he came up, I was calling for the bunt. It seemed logical to me. Tying run on third, winning run on second with a drawn-in infield. I just didn’t feel like arguing the point against a million people :)

      I just don’t think it was as stupid as made out to be. And the game is played between the lines. It just seems to me that “the right baseball move,” traditionally speaking, has to have SOME value, even if it is debateable.

  10. leftylarry says:

    The pitcher was wild and with a count of 1-0 you take off the bunt because Swisher has a high chance of walking there under that circumstance.
    If it’s 2-0 it’s easy, 1-1 you can still go back and bunt if you want to.

    • Good point.

      Here was Frank Francisco’s night up to the point that Nick Swisher stepped to the plate:

      Runners on 1st and 2nd
      ARod: Strike (looking)
      ARod: Ball 1
      ARod: Ball 2
      ARod: Ball 3
      ARod: Strike (looking)
      ARod: Ball 4

      Bases loaded
      Matsui: Strike (swinging)
      Matsui: Strike (swinging)
      Matsui: Ball 1
      Matsui: Single to RF, Run Scored

      Bases loaded
      Posada: Ball 1
      Posada: Strike (looking)
      Posada: Foul ball
      Posada: Single to 3B, Run Scored

      Bases Loaded
      Cano: Ball 1
      Cano: Strike (looking)
      Cano: Single to LF, Run Scored, Run Scored

      Runners on 1st and 2nd
      Swisher:

      That’s 17 pitches. Only 6 of which were swung at, only 2 of which were swung at and missed, more than half of which were outside the strike zone, ALL of which were made with runners in scoring position and with good hitters at the plate.

      Frank Francisco was a walking dead man. He was John Coffey.

      He was who we thought he was, and we let him off the hook.

  11. Observer283 says:

    I think the most important number in Ben’s post is 7. Nick Swisher has bunted 7 times in his entire career. Seven. That’s it. I had absolutely no doubt in my mind that he wasn’t going to get that bunt down.

    People say that “he’s gotta get that down, no excuses.” I don’t think this is fair at all. Bunting a 95 MPH fastball is incredibly hard, even for majore leaguers. It is ESPECIALLY hard if you have bunted 7 times in your entire career. Bunting in BP is not going to prepare you for bunting against live pitching. Furthermore, Swisher came up as a power hitter in the Moneyball Oakland A’s system. How many times do we think he bunted in the minor.

    The point is, Girardi put Swisher in a position to fail. Aside from all of the debates about run expectancy, I think this is also an important fact to remember.

    On the run expectancy stuff: A successful bunt would have increased our chances at scoring one run (slightly). Obviously you want to win the game right there, but increasing your chance to tie the game is not something to sneeze at. I personally don’t really like the idea of bunting there, but if you had someone up there who was a good bunter and not a great hitter, I wouldn’t have killed Girardi for doing it.

    But, for the reasons noted above, asking Nick Swisher to bunt in that position is indefensible.

    • Moshe Mandel says:

      He has 7 successful sac bunts in his career. However, according to Fangraphs, he has 5 attempted bunts this season, with 3 successful sacs and two bunt hits. That is a pretty good rate. He may not have a great career bunting, but that may be because he has batted in the middle or top of the order. He is the 8 hitter this year, has attempted 5 bunts, and either sacrificed or got a hit on all. Not that bad.

  12. Matt says:

    ‘Your excuses are your own’ says Ricky Roma.

    Get the bunt down and shut up. If you cant bunt you shouldnt be in the MLB. A successful bunt and sac fly, then its a great play, or a wild pitch also makes it great. You put much more pressure on the other team with a runner on third. Fundamentals win games.

    You know why it was a bad play? Bc Swisher F’d it up, thats why.

  13. Observer283 says:

    I just thought of one good thing that came out of all of this:

    Did you guys see Girardi’s reaction in the dugout? He was incensed. No he may have been incensed at Swisher. But I think there is a good chance he was incensed at himself. In any event, I think the odds of Girardi asking or even allowing one of his non-bunting/OPS machines to bunt in a similar situation have been reduced drastically.

    Better to learn not to bunt good hitters who aren’t used to bunting in August rather than October.

    • Mac says:

      I hope so, but that’s not the first time this year we’ve seen the bunt tried in that situation. Unless its a guy like Gardy or Melky with Jeter coming up, Girardi should give the NO Bunt sign – just to make sure someone doesn’t have a brain fart and try it on their own.

    • Makavelli says:

      Agreed. But if Joba keeps pitching the way he has. Swisher’s bunting probably won’t be the worst of what’s to come in October…

      • Mac says:

        One game at a time Mak, but I haven’t lost sight of the fact that as much improved as this team is, it still may run into the same probs we’ve had the last few October’s – weak starting pitching and much less offense.

        As for Joba, we’ve been spoiled, I think the few stop tarters the Yanks have developed in my lifetime – Guidry, Righetti (until he closed), Pettitte and Wang, weren’t rushed to the bigs like Joba and Hughes have been.

        This is what a young pitcher goes thru trying to become a top starter (I guess). I’m still a bit puzzled about his velocity inre his shoulder issues in the past and last year.

        • Makavelli says:

          Our starting pitching is solid. It’s not dominant. It’s a very good rotation assisted by the best offense in baseball.

          That being said. We might run into a few of the same problems depending on the teams we face, you’re right.

          Facing Texas shouldn’t be all that hard in the playoffs. Despite having the 2nd best offense in baseball, Texas is still quite inferior to ours. And their starting pitchers aren’t anything special (thought Corey Feldman’s 9-1 road record isn’t anything to sneaze at)

          Facing Boston could be trouble-some. Depending on Beckett’s current issues. Seeing a healthy Beckett and Lester 5+ times in a series could be painful…especially if their offense comes back to form. Then again, Mike Mussina and Jon Leiber went up against Schilling and Pedro quite a few times…and their offense then makes this Sox team’s offense look like the Orioles.

          If Sabathia can shake his October woes and Burnett can spin together more consistent starts (without pitching brilliant for 3-4 starts and then getting rodney king’d for 10 earned runs…that would help. Then there’s the issue with Joba and his innings or what-have-you. He’s not looking good. Then we have Pettitte who’s been solid…and is a proven post season monster. And if you see Mitre in a playoff game…the game is probably over anyway by that point.

          There are some big issues…but everybody’s got them. We’v just had the misfortune of having worst-case scenario’s come true for the most part over the years…while Boston has benefitted from quite a few “best case scenarios” (i.e. schilling’s ankle, their playoff schedule in 2007, News breaking that Paul Byrd did steroids the day of his start in the playoffs against Boston, etc)

  14. Mike HC says:

    I hate the bunt too, in almost any situation. I mean, just to give them an out? It is nuts to me. To ask Swisher to bunt to get to Melky? I’m kinda speechless (writeless).

  15. Mac says:

    I don’t like the bunt, only caveat is unless its in the NL with the pitcher up or you got a guy at the plate that absolutely can not hit and\or he’s likely to hit into a DP – Swish was not that guy.

    The thing I don;t understand is, if the manager knows a guy is a horrid bunter (but he’s a good hitter) why do you continue to prove to the world that he can’t execute said bunt?

    Last night’s loss doesn’t bother me, Yanks are so much better than I expected, I just hope they can avoid a losing streak and win series.

    • zs190 says:

      He has had 3 successful sacrifice hits this season, I don’t recall if they are bunts or not but it would seems like he has done it before successfully this season on several occasions. He’s not a great bunter by any stretch of imagination and I would have let him hit but he probably can bunt, he just didn’t get it done this time.

      Personally I wonder how much of the furor is because we lost that game. What if he got that bunt down, Melky hit a sac fly and tied the game and we win it in extras? Nobody would give a crap about the bunt and everyone would be talking about ridiculous comebacks and walkoffs and stuff.

      • Mac says:

        I agree with your last paragraph in the sense that there would be much less agita – and I’m not bothered b\c Yanks are 6 up with a full bore healthy team.

        I still think it doesn’t make sense to bunt with Swish – I don’t remember his sac’s either if they were bunts or not, but I don’t remember ever seeing or thinking he could bunt effectively. JMO

  16. No Halladay says:

    The bunt was a good baseball move, put the typing and go ahead runs in scoring position and remove the chances of a double play. You then have two chances to drive in a run from third. Nothing wrong wtih the move, and Swisher did not come through simple as that. You can’t control the outcome but you can control the strategy, and the move was a good one. Torre didn’t play small ball enough, so maybe we just aren’t used to seeing small ball.

    Irrespective of the bunt issue, the Yanks have not pitched well lately at all, and it’s reflected in the .500 ball they have been playing. That’s fine with a six game lead so long as the Sox or Rays don’t go on a run, or the Angels don’t get hot and take over the best record in the AL.

    The lead is still six games and the Yanks don’t have to win the division by 10. Howeever, 6 can be overcome when the team still has 3 left against the Sox in September (at NY, but nonetheless). There are also difficult games against the Rays (7) and Angels (4). Not to mention still two with Texas and 3 coming up with the ChiSox. The schedule is no cake walk down the stretch.

    The key to winning baseball has always been pitching, and in the playoffs even moreso. Resting Joba is ridiculous. He has an arm, so use it. 20-11 wins are nice and last night an 11-10 win would have been exciting, but to me that spells trouble. Playoff games are not won 20-11, the game changes in intensity, and the best pitching usually comes out on top.

    • Mac says:

      .500 ball? over what, the last two games? They are 6-4 in the last 10, 16-6 since August 1st.

      Swish can’t bunt and Melk isn’t hitting (and not getting many breaks either). Irrespective of all the clutch hits Melk got this year, 1 out 2nd and 3rd, its not a lock Melk gets it done (or Hinske) then its two out for Jeter.

      Its not cut and dried, the bunt play is debatable, especially when you have a guy up who sucks at it, but works counts and can hit.

    • I think the only thing I agreed with is your name. “No Halladay”.

      It was all downhill from there.

    • The bunt was a good baseball move

      No it wasn’t. You’re using a non-bunt type player to bunt to get to a guy who has been absolutely awful over his last 30 games. Bunting to get to Melky Cabrera, with anyone, is a bad baseball move.

      You then have two chances to drive in a run from third. Nothing wrong wtih the move

      And without bunting, you have three chances to get the tying run in.

      You can’t control the outcome but you can control the strategy, and the move was a good one. Torre didn’t play small ball enough, so maybe we just aren’t used to seeing small ball.

      Giving away an out to a pitcher who had given up 4 runs (3 of his own, 1 inherited) is never a good baseball move. Ever. Not playing small ball is a good thing. The Yankees have been successful on offense over the last decade because they don’t play small ball. The Yankees are a team built on patience and power, not small ball.

  17. Mike HC says:

    The stats you used assumed the bunt would be successful. You have to take into account the odds of the bunt not working, which is relatively high for Swisher (whether he pops it up, or hits it too hard, in the wrong spot and they get the guy at third.) So, you have the chances of scoring with no outs and guys on first and second, against someone trying to bunt over the runners with guys at first and third and no outs. The chance that the bunt does not get down must be taken into account, which makes the bunt even worse.

    • Mike HC says:

      *”against someone trying to bunt over the runners with guys at first and SECOND (typo, I wrote third by accident – - not that anyone probably cares)with no outs”

  18. Tank Foster says:

    I hated that call. Francisco was on the ropes. Swisher is a real pain in the arse to pitch to. Melky was on deck, and he’s slumping.

    Here are the pros of the bunt:

    1. Probably reduce the double play risk a little–alot, if you have a good bunter up there.
    2. I think you do increase the likelihood of scoring one run.

    Cons:

    1. With a bad bunter like Swish, you risk the DP, the lousy bunt, which is no better than a regular at bat.
    2. You reduce the likelihood of scoring 2 more runs and winning the game.
    3. You take the bat out of the hand of the better hitter, Swisher, and put it in the hands of the worse hitter, Melky.

    Let’s get something straight, the difference in “run expectancy” between 1/2 none out and 2/3 one out, 0.07 runs, or whatever it is, is trivial, and certainly not significant.

    However, those numbers are arithmetic means, meaning they average millions of different outcomes. Since there is no such thing as a fraction of a run, the real answer to the question of whether the bunt is a good decision has to look at frequency data…the number of times you score—- a) ANY runs v. no runs, and b) ONE run v. more than one run, c) etc.

    Sometimes, 2/3 one out, you’ll score no runs. Sometimes, 1/2 none out, you’ll score no runs. That is the crucial comparison.

  19. Matt says:

    Yes, if you play MLB you should know how to bunt. It is a FUNDAMENTAL, as in basic, kinda like running to first base hard, which few players also do.

  20. Tom Zig says:

    Is anyone still arguing about this?

  21. Little Bill says:

    It was a horrid call. The Rangers pitching has always been awful. THEY ARE WHO WE THOUGHT THEY WERE AND WE LET THEM OFF THE HOOK! Giving a free out to a guy who couldn’t buy one is the definition of insanity. Let’s just hope Girardi doesn’t run this team into the ground with his small ball fetish.

  22. Tank Foster says:

    What just makes my blood boil is that it’s as if Girardi wasn’t watching the game. The Rangers were like deer in the headlights out there, and Francisco had big time cotton mouth. Even if the bunt had been successful, it had to make Francisco feel better, because he’s escaped the bat of a power hitter, has one out, and has a much weaker hitter up there to focus on.

    When Swisher squared on the first pitch I thought “ok, yeah, show the bunt, to get the infielders moving, maybe rattle Francisco thinking about fielding the ball.” When he squared again I wanted to throw my flatscreen down the basement stairs.

  23. VO says:

    It’s simple enough why would you bunt to get to Melky? I mean I would kind of understand if they bunted Melky to get to Jeter but Swisher to get to Melky? No way.

  24. JM says:

    Like I said before, Hairston was safe getting back to 2nd and ESPN proved it. Jeter might’ve come through in that spot, maybe not, but that call was potentially a game changer and had the Yankees won, this bunt wouldn’t have been ridiculed as much. Not that I’m saying it should’ve been done, especially with a guy like Swisher who walks a lot and can’t bunt anyway.

  25. Matt says:

    Only bc Melky has come through time and time again in big spots, we can all go chapter and verse. You guys all sound like Billy Beane ‘we dont bunt, we dont give away outs’. And how is that philosophy working out? The A’s cant even win one playoff series. Just get the bunt down and stop complaining.

  26. A.D. says:

    If you want to bunt, then pinch hit Swisher for someone who actually bunts.

    But you shouldn’t want to bunt.

    • Zack says:

      considering Swisher is tied for the team lead (well behind gardner and cervelli but they arent active) in sac bunts, your criticism doesnt really make sense

      • Zack says:

        and considering the options on the bench are Molina and Hinske, letting them sac bunt instead of swish doesnt make sense either

      • Klemy says:

        Being tied for the team lead actively doesn’t make him the right person to do it. He has 7 in his freaking career.

  27. James says:

    Swisher at home folks is batting a robust .200..with 3 HRS and 18 RBIs. not bunting him would have been foolish imo.

    He does have some sc bunts this year meaning he can do it..this is on Swisher not Girardi!

  28. Tucker says:

    I think that Joe Girardi basically is at fault due to the media. What if Swisher hadn’t bunted, not moved the runners over and then the Yankees didn’t score anyways. I think a lot more people would be on him for not playing small ball and so far your the only one that I’ve seen that has gotten on him for this one. Plus, Swisher actually has 3 sacrifices this year. It’s not like he can’t do it, I just don’t think he’s used to trying to bunt a 94 MPH fastball.

    However, I do partially agree with you just for slightly different reasoning. Nick Swisher, Melky Cabrera, AND Derek Jeter all hit the ball to the right side. Of course in that situation, you would only need Swisher to but still. Say Swisher hits a deep fly ball to the right side that moves Jerry Hairston over. Then you have 1st and 3rd for Melky who I actually could see them walking to set up the force at home. Plus, Jeter has hit into multiple DPs this year, a lot more then Cabrera.

    However, bottom line is that if you don’t bunt with Swisher, then you have 3 outs to knock the guy in from second. Considering your last of those three outs is a guy who’s hitting .335 and had yet to have been retired in the game, I would’ve taken my chances.

  29. [...] 1st and 2nd, but from there the rally died. Nick Swisher popped out on a questionable bunt attempt (River Avenue Blues has an interesting post about the bunt, and bunting in general), and then Melky hit a line drive to the Rangers’ shortstop and Jerry Hairston Jr. was [...]

  30. [...] 1st and 2nd, but from there the rally died. Nick Swisher popped out on a questionable bunt attempt (River Avenue Blues has an interesting post about the bunt, and bunting in general), and then Melky hit a line drive to the Rangers’ shortstop and Jerry Hairston Jr. was [...]

  31. Sabremetrics notwithstanding, if Swisher bunts the runners over to second and third, they have to bring the infield in and then Melky’s ball goes though for a hit, the runners score and the Yankees win, theeeeeeeeeeeee Yankees win. Just saying.

    • Tank Foster says:

      And as Michael Kay would say, you are guilty of the fallacy of the predetermined outcome. If Swish bunts successfully, maybe Melky gets walked to set up the force at home…maybe he gets different pitches, and doesn’t hit the line drive but hits a grounder.

      The sabermetric argument, as it’s been stated in this thread, isn’t terribly convincing. As has been pointed out, the run expectancy difference is essentially zero. And of course, that number isn’t valid for assessing the probability of winning this particular game. The appropriate numbers are frequency data…which would give you an odds ratio of tying or winning the game with each strategy.

  32. Riddering says:

    IETP. It’s always good to know that I’m not the only one going over a bunt like that in agonizing detail and finding it unworthy in all ways. Nothing like righteous baseball anger.

    I would also enjoy it if fans brought ‘no bunting’ signs to the game tonight. Or every home game from now until Girardi stops.

  33. Bo says:

    Giving away outs is the last thing a manager should be looking to do.

  34. [...] think Joe Girardi is taking too much crap over the Nick Swisher bunt Tuesday night. In fact, it has been proven that at no point in the game does giving up an out in exchange for a [...]

  35. Jordan says:

    Girardi is so terrible sometimes. Inexcusably terrible. It boggles the mind.

  36. EvoLuTioN says:

    fuck that bunt

    thats all i can say

  37. kevin davis says:

    Nick Swisher bunting is just another one of Joe Giradi’s bone head moves. He’s had way to many of those this year. Thankfully for Joe, the Yanks have a lot of talent and win despite of Girardi’s over managing!

  38. Dillon says:

    He claims that bunting lowers the number of runs a team will likely score, in one particular situation from 1.5 to about 1.43. Sure, but in bunting situations the teams aren’t trying to maximize the number of runs, rather they are trying to score ONE run and are trying to maximize the likelihood of that.

  39. Dillon says:

    i think analysis has been done that suggests that bunting when you are down by a run or tied in the 8th or 9th inning and have first and second with no outs makes sense. (i may have those specifics wrong, but that’s clearly a time when you’re playing for one run) otherwise, bunting takes away from run totals and wins.

    the point of the bunting analysis is that when you’re playing for 1 run, 1 run is likely the best you’re going to get. this isn’t valuable before the 8th inning since teams generally score a run every other inning on average anyway. this guy did not make the point well. you shouldn’t be surprised, he’s a yankee fan.

  40. No Halladay says:

    Anyone ever stop to think that Girardi manages the Yanks for a reason?? Maybe he knows more about baseball than any of us?? Maybe he’s actually played MLB, not just the video game??

    If you disagree with him, then that should give him the right to come to your job and analyze all your decisions and then write about them on a public forum, even though he might be less qualified than you at your job.

    It’s fine to discuss strategy, and so forth, but at the same time give the man some credit. Besides, he knows more about baseball than any of you hacks on here anyway. Otherwise you should be sending your resumes to ever MLB team trying to get a job even at the single A level, which none of you hacks qualify for either.

    I know, start with Little League, a great place to show everyone your talent.

    • dre says:

      um grady Little also managed a MLB team. Just because someone is a manager it doesn’t mean they know what they are doing. Managers dons’t go to school for managing..so one of us couldd very well manage a team better than teh genius Girardi…

  41. [...] that bit on bunting Ben wrote this morning? It eventually made its way to BBTF, and by those means made it to The Book Blog (linked in the [...]

  42. [...] Here is the original post: The bunt that drove us all crazy [...]

  43. [...] general, the bunt play decreases you chances of scoring and the facts are indisputable. Ben from RAB spelled it out yesterday: In fact, it has been proven that at no point in the game does giving up [...]

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